Congress has its own set of rules for sexual misconduct, The Washington Post reports. The unique code of conduct stems from a 1955 decision by Congress to enact a multi-step process for sexual harassment complaints that is not used anywhere else in the federal government, the Post explained, nor in most areas of the private sector.
Per Congress' rules, a claimant has 180 days after the alleged incident to file a complaint with the Office of Compliance. This requires the accuser to call the office to obtain a special password to access the complaint form. After filing, the claimant spends one month in counseling and another in a mediation phase. The process is confidential for both the accuser and the accused, and an entire congressional office has been devoted to ensuring that cases are not handled in the courts.
If the mediation reaches a settlement, that money does not come from the office of the accused. Instead, the money flows from a special U.S. Treasury fund. Between 1997 and 2014 the U.S. Treasury fund paid for 235 workplace violation settlements for a sum total of $15.2 million, the Post reports. Those figures do not detail the nature of the violations.
The president and chief executive of the Congressional Management Foundation, Brad Fitch, told the Post: "We have no doubt that sexual harassment is underreported in Congress, just as all workplace infractions are underreported in Congress."